If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a few tweets about the mental health blogger convention I’m hosting next year. I’ve had a few questions about it, so I wanted to answer them all here. I’m so excited (and nervous!) about this event and I hope to see loads of you there.

Where is it?

It will be in Bournemouth, at the Queens Hotel.

This is roughly a ten minute walk from the train station and a two minute walk from the beach if anyone fancies wandering down afterwards. If you’re driving down, there is free parking at the hotel, but it’s limited. Don’t worry though, there is plenty of street parking around, though please be aware it’s all pay and display.

When is it?

Saturday 14th July 2018, 11am-6pm.

Will there be food?

There will be tea and coffee on arrival as well as a light buffet. If you have any allergies, please check with hotel staff on the day.

Where can I stay afterwards?

There will be a small amount of discounted rooms allocated to this event. Please contact the hotel directly to make a booking and explain that you are attending the event.

Failing that, there are loads of hotels nearby; my recommendations would be any of the Oceana Hotels or The Orchid, which is very affordable.

What’s the running order of the day?

I’m still nailing that bit down, but currently I have plans for the following:

  • Talks from people in the MH blogging community
  • Exhibition stands with products
  • A booth with a make-up artist/eyebrow lady (sculptor/artist/stylist/whatever the term is…!) giving makeovers
  • Potentially readings from authors and a stand-up set
  • Selfie area (I will also be running a competition for the best selfie!)
  • Lots and lots of mingling and great conversation with like-minded people, in a relaxed, comfortable environment

Sounds great – how can I buy tickets?

Tickets are £15 each and you can buy them here.

You won’t get a physical ticket, but I will be sending email confirmations, which you will need to have with you – on your phone is fine!

Can I vlog the event?

Please feel free to take photos on the day and write blog posts after – the more the better! However, at the moment, I think I’d prefer it if there wasn’t any vlogging (though I may film some of the talks myself). I only say this because I want everyone to feel comfortable and some people may not feel relaxed being on camera.

Is the venue wheelchair accessible?

Yes!

Help! I have more questions!

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know in the comments, or drop me an email: geekmagnifique1@gmail.com

MH Blog Con logo

 

Ours is a story about friendship. But it’s also about love, family and all the strange ways life manages to throw people together.

I always find it amazing that when a person comes into your life, you never really know how important they are going to become to you.

I certainly didn’t realise when I came to your house with a bottle of gone-off Bucks Fizz (I think this was an attempt to get us through our English Lit revision?), that you would one day be like a sister to me. We laughed as we poured ourselves a disgustingly flat yet chunky tipple, and our friendship started.

I’d pick you up on my way to sixth form and we’d eat croissants in my car. I fed you cream cakes while you were working on the tills at Morrison’s. You know, all the usual shenanigans you’d expect from two seventeen-year-olds.

We ended up going to the same university, even though we both picked different ones as our first choice. We chose the same joint honours course (Journalism and Media Production), before both deciding at the end of first year to drop journalism. This wasn’t planned or talked about, it just happened.

It was at university that I met Dave, who very quickly stole my heart. Some time after that, Dave met Pete, who soon became his band-mate and one of his best friends.

After university Pete came to live with us in our flat down in Bournemouth. You’d moved back to Hastings (I missed you so much!) but came down regularly to stay with us. In fact, you were there the weekend Pete moved in. We ended up watching Hole in the Wall and learned that it’s one of the greatest TV shows ever made.

Photo of me and Julie

One of my favourite pictures of us, taken shortly before you moved to Bournemouth.

Friendship between you and Pete eventually turned to more. Dave and I got engaged the same weekend the two of you had your first date, and soon after, the four of us were living together.

You moved out (thankfully only down the road!), Dave and I got married, then you and Pete followed suit soon after. It wasn’t long before you bought your first home together (again, thankfully only down the road!) and from time to time we’ve helped with fun jobs like smashing up concrete in your back garden and taking trips to the tip.

When you told us you were having a baby I cried. I knew instantly that I would love your child so much; I was so excited to be Auntie Mel to a little person you created.

Over the many years our lives have been so intertwined. We’ve shared ups and downs, holidays in Cornwall, birthdays and early Christmases that have felt just as special as the actual day itself. We’ve racked up massive phone bills to each other, commiserated failings, stayed up until 4am giggling like fools and celebrated loads of amazing achievements (in my case, many a new job!).

Today Dave and I officially bought our first home together. Naturally we’ve remained in walking distance of you, because it’s become obvious that there’s no way we’re getting rid of each other.

This move has been a long time coming for me and Dave; a bright spot at the end of some difficult times. A fresh start.

And because we’ve always been in sync and our lives have this funny way of slotting neatly together, today is also the day you welcomed your son into the world.

You and Pete are like family to me, so of course your son is going to be like family to me too. We have made more amazing memories than I can count and I look forward to making many, many more.

And so, I’d like raise a glass (of something that isn’t Bucks Fizz!) to the birth of your beautiful baby boy.

To my best friends, my family, and to serendipity.

x

A little side note: I got the text announcing your little man’s arrival just as I was getting into my car to go and pick up the keys to our house. About five minutes later this song came on the radio. It always makes me think of you.

 

 

 

A while back I talked about how mental illness and therapy are portrayed in various TV shows.

I found this a really interesting post to write and since then, I’ve been particularly impressed by how mental health has been explored in two particular shows. Spoilers ahead – though I’m talking about season 5 of Suits and Star Trek TNG, so I wouldn’t worry too much!

Suits

This may sound strange, but when Harvey started having panic attacks at the start of season 5, I was thrilled. Finally we had a strong, confident man experiencing severe bouts of anxiety, rather than the tired, predictable portrayals I’m used to seeing (Big Bang Theory’s Stuart, I’m looking at you). I think this is such a great thing to see because it drives home the point that mental illness can happen to anyone – regardless of wealth, success or any other factors – and reminds people that outward appearances can be deceiving.

Harvey Specter having a panic attack

Harvey up until this point had been portrayed as a stoic character who, it could be argued, was not very in touch with his emotions. When things started to go wrong in his personal life though, it began to take a toll on him, and ultimately frightened him so much that he started seeing a psychiatrist.

In these sessions with Dr Agard, we see him resisting her efforts to help him, as he struggles to be honest with her. She starts to dig a bit deeper and it becomes clear that his current problems stem from much larger, more deep-rooted issues. I’m only a few episodes into the season, but I’m excited to see how this story line develops.

What I liked…

  • Harvey’s honesty with Mike when he tells him he’s having a panic attack.
  • Straight after, when Mike asks if Harvey’s alright, rather than brushing it off, Harvey admits he’s not.
  • The realistic way the panic attacks are portrayed, showing the overwhelming physical symptoms: racing heart, sweating, vomiting. I thought these scenes were very well done.
  • The fact that Dr Agard insists Harvey talks to her, refusing to just prescribe him medication. One thing I’ve learned is that talking therapies and medication go hand-in-hand, and I’m glad this is being explored on the show.
  • The balance between Harvey being vulnerable while also still being his usual self. Though I suspect he may continue to unravel and I’m interested to see where the show takes him, at the moment I like that he’s struggling, while still being high-functioning. It’s a realistic portrayal of what many people go through each day, and the way the anxiety is slowly creeping its way into his life and affecting his work as he tries to keep afloat is very relatable.
  • The way it showed that therapy isn’t an instant fix. My heart sank when Harvey triumphantly threw his medication away, because I thought the writers were just using the panic attacks as a one-off dramatic device. I’m so glad the therapist didn’t just say a few magic words and instantly ‘fix’ him. It’s much more realistic that he didn’t experience an immediate breakthrough and again, I’m excited to see how his experiences continue to develop his character.

…and what I didn’t

  • The ‘mind-reading therapist’ trope. When she told him ‘I had you pegged from the moment you walked in’ I have to admit I rolled my eyes slightly.
  • Dr Agard’s openness with Harvey. Some of what she divulges to him and the poker game they have later didn’t really ring true to me, but then again, I’m not a psychiatrist, so who knows?
  • This hasn’t happened yet, so it’s possibly unfair to put it in the dislikes column, but I have a feeling they will end up dating and I really hope they don’t.

The verdict

I’m a big fan of Suits and absolutely love Harvey as a character, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how he continues to try and overcome his anxiety. I sincerely hope he doesn’t just end up in a relationship with Donna and that’s the end of his panic attacks. I’m so sick of the ‘love fixes everything, even mental illness’ rubbish we see so much in films and TV shows.

Very important scientific side-note:

Would you just look at him? *Inserts a million heart eyes emojis*

Harvey Specter GIF

Star Trek: The Next Generation

I’ve been a huge fan of Star Trek since I was a kid. Everyone knows it’s always been ahead of its time in many ways, but I’ve started to notice recently that it was also ahead of its time in the way it tackled ‘difficult’ subjects like suicide and grief, while normalising the idea of seeing a counsellor.

What I liked…

  • The fact the Enterprise not only had a ship’s counsellor, but that she was an integral part of the bridge crew and a close confidant of the captain. It’s a shame this wasn’t a role that the other Star Trek franchises had.
  • The episode ‘Hero Worship’, in which a young boy attempts to avoid confronting the grief of losing his parents by ‘becoming’ an android and mimicking Data’s mannerisms. With Troi’s guidance, Data forms a strong bond with the child and helps him work through his feelings slowly rather than avoiding them.
  • The episodes following Picard’s assimilation into the Borg collective, as he tries to cope with his trauma and readjust to life back on the Enterprise.
  • The episode where Troi has to help her mother uncover repressed memories of the child she lost. This is all done very symbolically, with Troi delving into her mother’s Betazoid psyche to try and understand the self-preservation mechanisms her mind has put in place. Look out for a very young Kirsten Dunst!
  • Troi as a character. I always admired her integrity, compassion and empathic abilities.
  • Voyager also had a couple of great episodes, my favourite being ‘Extreme Risk’. After finding out all her Maquis friends are dead, B’Elanna starts to deal with her grief in unhealthy ways, such as taking part in extreme holodeck programs with the safety controls off.

…and what I didn’t

  • Nothing! Unless there are any episodes I’ve forgotten about (please comment if so!), as far as I’m concerned, any episodes that dealt with mental health, grief or suicide did so cleverly and sensitively.

Side-notes:

  • Deanna had the most incredible curls and was very much the envy of my frizzy-haired nine year old self.
  • I adore both of these kick-ass ladies and their friendship.

Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher

And a cheeky but very special mention to…Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I could (and probably will) fill an entire blog post with reasons I adore this show – go and watch it, now! It’s funny, relatable and moving in equal measures, and I promise you will fall in love with Rebecca Bunch.

Rebecca Bunch

If you want to watch any of the shows I’ve mentioned, they’re all available on Netflix. You’re welcome.

“From the start I knew I wanted to make it amazing” 

Carpenter Simon Clissold talks about how he helped make Pause Cat Café a perfect kitty sanctuary.

When Simon first saw the café it was nothing but a “shell of bricks” and he knew it was going to be a mammoth job. As well as standard renovation, there was a lot of work to be done structurally, in order to meet the health and safety regulations around keeping animals in areas where food is served.

A former boat-builder and owner of Scallywags, a local floor restoration company, Simon has a passion for working with reclaimed wood. He got creative with leftover timber and always aimed to get the most out of his materials. He is most proud of the café’s fascia, which he crafted out of old floorboards. Rather than using expensive cedar wood – the original plan – the reclaimed wood cost him just £150.

Simon standing outside Pause Cat Cafe

He used a mixture of wood he had in stock, donated materials and old furniture. The cute little kitty doors were actually made from regular doors!

Little wooden cat door

Simon came highly recommended to Jaya and though he admits the work was very stressful at times, he says he thoroughly enjoyed it. There were some very long days – up to 18 hours! –including one particularly memorable one.

“I ended up falling asleep at about 2 in the morning and didn’t wake up until people started coming in at 9am,” Simon laughs. “So I got up and pretended I’d just arrived as well!”

“I wanted the cats to be able to get around the whole café without having to touch the floor.”

Perhaps the café’s most striking feature is the incredible maze of bridges, walkways and stair cases for the cats to get around on.  A lot of thought went into their design and Simon wanted them to be neat and symmetrical. “I like the contrast of the disorder of the reclaimed wood and the order of the clean designs,” he explains. “The whole look is very organic; all the shelves support one another and it almost looks as if they are growing out of each other.”

The cat bridge The cafe interior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon used a lot of wooden dowels as supports, which he bought for £1, and even got creative with a rolling pin, which he used to support the spiral staircase.

Rolling pin staircase support

A lot of work went into the back of house areas as well, including individual bedrooms for each of the cats.

Petrus' bedroom

The cat flap to each bedroom is activated by its cat’s own microchip.

While he admits he’s more of a dog person, Simon has grown to love the cats. “They all have very different personalities – that’s something I didn’t know about them at first.” He even very kindly named one of the cats, Petrus.

Petrus

“Petrus was the name of my grandmother’s dog, so I like that it has a family connection. I’ve named a boat Petrus as well.”

 “It satisfies my creative side.”

Simon’s passion project is carving beautiful end-grain chopping boards, which he plans to sell online very soon. He has a range of designs, his favourite being this Escher inspired “3D” chopping board.

Escher chopping board

He also carved and generously donated one to Pause, featuring a beautiful dark wood inlay of the café’s logo.

Pause Cat Cafe logo chopping board

He’s done such a fantastic job that I think we can forgive him for being a dog person!

You can find Simon’s work here – www.scallywagsfloors.co.uk – and buy his chopping boards here: www.geekmagnifique.co.uk/shop.

Before I start, I’d like to stress that I am in no way a finance expert and that entering into a financial agreement is a big decision that must be considered carefully. This post is purely to share the things I learned during the process and how I found the whole experience.

Choosing my car

I’d never bought a brand new car before, so I have to admit when I walked into Eden Vauxhall the first time, I was pretty excited.

I initially wanted a Vauxhall Corsa, for a few different reasons:

  • I’ve driven a few in the past (as hire cars) and I always found them comfortable and nice to drive
  • Friends of ours recently bought their car from Eden and had a really good experience
  • From the research I did I found that Vauxhall did some good 0% finance deals (more on that later)

In the end I went for a Vauxhall Adam Energised, which is smaller and a bit funkier than the Corsa.

Image of me with my new car

Me with Magnus!

Dave and I used to share one car, which worked fine when I walked or got the train to work. However, when I got my new job I realised I would need to drive, hence the need for a second car.

Our other car is quite big and where we’re moving to is a bit tight on parking, so it actually made sense to get a smaller car. I do sometimes miss having 5 doors, but on the whole I’m really happy with my new little car. It’s cheap to run, looks cute and gets me where I need to go – plus it has something called City Mode, which is AMAZING for parking in tight spaces.

Was it scary going car shopping?

Not at all! The staff at Eden were so friendly and I always felt very well taken care of. The showroom was spacious, modern and very comfortable, so while I had to do a wee bit of waiting around, I was able to do so on comfy sofas, with plenty of magazines and all the free coffee I could drink!

Jennie, the saleswoman that helped me, was lovely – very warm, helpful and professional, without being too pushy or sales-y.

She answered all my questions, talked me through the features and benefits of the car and took me on a test drive so I could get a feel for it.

Is car finance confusing?

It was a bit at first, but I made sure I did lots of research as I wanted to go in knowing what sort of deal I was looking for. I think this was a good idea as it helped me feel more prepared and sound like I knew roughly what I was talking about! Obviously you can ask questions and they’ll be more than happy to explain things, but it’s nice to have a basic understanding going in.

Can you explain a bit about car finance?

There are various different ways to finance your purchase, but the two main terms you’ll hear being thrown around are PCP and HP. Both are summed up very briefly below:

Personal Contract Purchase (PCP)

  • Flexible terms, low monthly payments (instalments only cover the partial cost of your car)
  • Low deposit required
  • At the end of your agreement you will need to pay a large chunk (or balloon payment) for the car to be yours
  • If you aren’t bothered about owning the car you can return it to the dealership or part exchange the car on a new finance agreement
  • Mileage restrictions apply, with penalties for exceeding them. You will also be penalised for damage to the car (beyond general wear and tear)
  • This type of finance is best suited to people who aren’t bothered about owning the car at the end. So, if you’re the type of person who likes swapping cars and having a brand-new one every few years, this could be a good option for you
  • You’ll hear the term ‘Guaranteed Future Value’ – more on this here

Hire Purchase (HP)

  • Once you’ve made your final payment you will own the car
  • Rather than smaller monthly payments followed by a large balloon payment at the end, your agreement will be made up of larger fixed monthly payments
  • You can vary the size of your deposit. The more you’re able to put down, the smaller your monthly payments will be

What about interest rates?

Interest (APR) rates vary and it is possible to find 0% interest deals, which is what I did. Quite simply this means my monthly payments are worked out as follows:

[Retail price of car + any extras (I’ll come to this later) – deposit] % by the number of months my contract runs for (48, in case you were wondering)

And that’s it, no interest is added on.

So…extras?

I added on floor mats (they weren’t included), GAP Insurance (I would recommend having this – more info here, and exterior paint and alloy protection. There were other options, such as upholstery protection, that I decided not to go for. Don’t worry – when you come to buy, the dealer will run through all your options and their benefits.

What next?

If you’re planning to buy a car and either don’t wish to purchase from a private seller or don’t have the funds to buy outright, you’ll want to start exploring finance options. The points I’ve mentioned here are very brief, but Creditplus* have a mine of information on the various types.

What I have learned though, is that buying a new car needn’t be scary or overwhelming. It’s a big purchase, but there is plenty of advice available to help you make the right choice. I’m really happy with my new car and had a great experience with the team at Eden.

I should say as well that I went for a brand new car because of the various perks that come with doing that, but finance is available on used and even classic cars, so your options aren’t limited!

*Disclaimer: Creditplus is my employer but all thoughts and opinions are my own and I received no additional financial incentive for writing this post.